By Emma Ralls
At this point in time, it is second nature for college females to be on high alert whenever they leave their safe space, whether it be their living facility or class.
According to a 2020 report published by the Association of American Universities, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation.
The same report states that 5.8% of students have experienced stalking since entering college. It’s no surprise that students would want to take precaution to protect themselves.
High Point University does its part in trying to make its students feel safe. On campus, there is an active security presence, a blue light system and many workshops and resources to educate faculty, staff and students.
But there is another step they could take: allowing students to carry pepper spray on campus.
Page 153 in HPU’s Student Guide to Campus Life explicitly outlines the prohibition of pepper spray.
“The University prohibits possession of carrying weapons of any kind on campus, whether openly or concealed regardless of permit,” states the guide. “Students who are found in possession of such an item may be referred to law enforcement as well as the Office of Student Life.”
The guide lists all the prohibited weapons, placing pepper spray in the same category as guns, dynamite, tasers, grenades, daggers, mace, swords, bows, nunchucks and many other types of weaponry.
Arguably, this makes sense because used in the wrong way pepper spray can be incredibly harmful. However, in the theory of self-defense, it would help protect women from harmful and potentially life-threatening situations.
The 2018-19 Student Guide to Campus Life did not include pepper spray in this category, nor did it include the prohibition of carrying pepper spray.
“Pepper spray has overtaken all other sprays that have been used in self-defense because of its effectiveness and the predictability of its effects,” according to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Pepper spray is efficient and not debilitating. As long as the spray is used according to the manufacturers’ instructions, it will disable the attacker for 30-45 minutes and will not permanently injure or kill the individual.
Considering how easy it is to use and its efficiency, pepper spray is something that many women should be allowed to arm themselves with, especially when college-aged women are such large targets for assault.
According to a 2020 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women in college experiences sexual assault.
The students of HPU have made their voices heard and campaigned for the right to carry pepper spray on campus.
A petition on Change.org entitled “Allow students at HPU to carry self-defense items and pepper spray!” was started by HPU student Nicole Morgan and has garnished over 400 signatures.
HPU freshman Haley Bracci commented on the petition.
“We should be able to have the right to protect ourselves,” said Bracci.
HPU junior Megan Phipps shared similar statements.
“I’m signing because as a woman, I should be allowed to protect myself in any way I see fit,” Phipps said. “The university’s policy does not allow us to conceal pepper spray, even in our vehicles for off-campus travel.”
This is not to say HPU doesn’t take the safety of students seriously. Security goes above and beyond to help protect campus and students and has many practices in place to keep everyone on campus as safe as possible. The Livesafe application allows students to anonymously share information with HPU Security, view a live map of campus shuttles and access other safety tools.
Allowing students to carry pepper spray to guarantee self-safety should be the next step.